"At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year and lay it up within the gates. And the Levite, because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest."
Do you sorrowfully say that no such table is now spread? But He who thus provided still lives, and is the same as then. The silver and the gold are His, and the cattle upon a thousand hills, and he ruleth all things by the Word of His power. They that trust in him shall never be confounded.
"Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless, nor take the widow's raiment to pledge. Why? Because they have no earthly friend to redeem the latter or plead for the former. Weak and unguarded, they are exposed to all these evils, but that He, the Eternal, takes them under his own especial care; and instead of compelling them to depend on the insecure tenure of man's compassion, or even justice, institutes laws for their benefit, the disobedience of which is sin against Himself."
Scattered through all the sacred volume are words which, equally with those we have quoted, speak forth Jehovah's interest in the helpless. "Leave thy fatherless children to me," he said, by his prophet Jeremiah, at a time when misery, desolation, and destruction were falling on Judea and her sons for their awful impiety. "Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me." "A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation."
Oh, do we receive the full import of these soul-cheering words? Lone, solitary one! who hidest in thy heart a grief which, untasted, cannot be understood, there is a Being sitting on the circle of the heavens, who knows every pang thou endurest. He formed thee susceptible of the love which thou hast felt and enjoyed; Himself ordained the tie which bound thee. He, better than any other, comprehends thy loss. Dost thou doubt—study faithfully His word; obey his voice. Yield thy heart to Him and trust Him implicitly. He will prove himself able to bless thee in thine inmost soul. The avenues to that soul are all open to Him, and He can cause such gentle, soothing influences to flow in upon thee as shall make thee "Sing even as in the days of thy youth."
Fatherless child! whose heart fails thee when thou dost miss from every familiar place the guide of thy youth, faint not nor be discouraged, though the way is rough, and the voice that ever spoke tenderly to thee is silent. Thou hast a father in heaven; and He who calls himself such understands better than thou what is implied in that sacred name. Tell Him thy woes and wants.
"Thou art as much His care, as if beside Nor man nor angel lived in heaven or earth."
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INFANTS TAUGHT TO PRAY.
Persons who have never investigated the subject cannot believe that young children are capable of being taught to pray, intelligently. As infants cannot be supposed to understand the essential nature and design of prayer, we may profitably inquire, "Of what use can prayer be to a young child?"
Miss H. More defines prayer to be "The application of want to Him who alone can relieve it; the confession of sin to Him who alone can pardon it; the urgency of poverty, the prostration of humility, the fervency of penitence—the confidence of trust. It is the 'Lord save us, we perish,' of drowning Peter—the cry of faith to the ear of mercy." Now, are not children, for several of their first years, absolutely dependent upon others for the supply of all their wants? And yet, though no beings are so weak, so helpless, yet none are so eloquent in pleading or praying for what they want as young children in distress, though they have not yet acquired the language of speech, and simply because this language is nature's voice.
How irresistible are the entreaties of an infant in sickness, pain, and trouble. It will not be pacified or comforted by any one but its mother—her bosom is its sanctuary—her voice its sweetest melody—her arms its only refuge. What a preparation is this in the ordering of Providence, and in direct reference to what is to succeed, evidently with the design that when a child is of a suitable age, it may transfer its highest love and confidence from its earthly parents to a heavenly Father. At first the mother stands in the place of God to her child, and is all the world to him. But if she be a praying mother, the child will very early discover that, like himself, she too is a helpless, dependent, needy creature, and he will learn to trust in that great Being whom his mother adores.
Perhaps she has been in the habit, when her child was drawing its nutriment from her breast, to feel more than at any other time her responsibility to the little helpless being who is a part of herself, and especially to "train it up in the way it should go." And she will usually improve this opportunity to commune with her God, saying with more solemn importunity, day by day, "How shall I order thee, child?" She feels the need of more wisdom, for she now begins to realize that her arms will not always encircle her child, and if they could, she could not ward off the arrows of disease and death. She thinks too of the period as near when it will be more out from under her scrutinizing watch, and will be more exposed to temptations from without and from within. Perhaps, too, she may die early, and then who will feel for her child, who will train it, who will consecrate it to God as sedulously as she hopes to do? O, if she could be certain of its eternal well-being. She eagerly inquires, "Is there any way by which my child can be so instructed, so consecrated, that I may be absolutely certain that I shall meet him, a ransomed soul, and dwell with him forever among the blessed in heaven?" "Yes, there is." I find in the unerring Scriptures many precious examples of children who were thus early dedicated to God, and were accepted and blessed of Him. She loves to remember those mothers on the plains of Judea who brought their infants to the Savior for his blessing. They were not discouraged, though the disciples, like many of the present day, forbade them to come, saying, "Of what possible use can it be to bring young children to the Savior?" But behold, the Savior welcomes and blesses them. Children who have been thus blessed of the Savior will not, cannot be lost. His promise is, "None shall pluck them out of my father's hand;" and again, "I will keep that what is committed to me till the final day."
With such Scripture promises and examples, this praying mother, hour by hour, lifts her heart to God, and implores that the Savior would crown with success her endeavors to obey his precepts, and, in doing so, to accept her consecrated child. How sweet and gentle are her accents! With a loud voice she puts up her petitions which, till now, under similar circumstances, have not even been whispered aloud.
But her emotions have risen so high, that not only does her voice become inarticulate, but her tears fall like April showers upon the face of her, till now, unconscious child.
The child looks inquiringly. It now perceives that that countenance, which has hitherto been lighted up only by smiles, and been radiant with hope, at times is beclouded by fears. No wonder if this scene should attract the attention of this infant listener. Perhaps it is overawed. It rises up, it looks round to see if any one is present, with whom its mother is holding converse. Seeing no one, it hides its little head in the folds of its mother's dress, and is still.
What does all this do but to awaken, on the part of the mother, a still deeper interest in the welfare of her sympathizing little one. She now realizes as she never did before, what an influence she has in swaying the mind and affections of her darling child, and her responsibility seems to increase at every step. She presses her child more and more fondly to her bosom. With daily and increasing faith, love and zeal, she resorts to the throne of grace, and pleads for that wisdom she so pre-eminently needs.
It cannot be but that her love to her child should be daily strengthened by such communings with her own heart and her Savior, in sweet fellowship with her little one, though so young as not fully to comprehend all it sees and hears, yet it will remember and be influenced, eternally, by what has been done and said in its presence. This mother fully realizes that she is under the watchful eye of God, her Maker and Redeemer—that the Holy Trinity—the mysterious "three in one" have been present, more than spectators of what has transpired. For she is sure that these aspirations after holiness for herself and for her child are not earth-born—but emanations from the triune God.
It is natural to suppose that lasting impressions would be made upon the heart of a child thus early taught to pray.
No wonder if this little child, ever after, should find a sacred pleasure in visiting the place where prayer is wont to be made, which at first was hallowed and sweetened by tender and endearing associations.
And we would here remark, that it is chiefly by the power of association that young children can be supposed to be benefited by such teachings and examples.
A striking incident occurred in my mother's nursery, not only illustrative of the power of association, but showing how very tenacious is the memory of young children.
My mother had a fit of sickness when my little brother was but seven months old, and she was obliged to wean him at that early age.
He was always a feeble child and clung to our mother with almost a death-grasp. The weaning of that child will never fade from my recollection. In fact our mother used to say that that boy was never weaned.
When he was about a year old, he was found fast asleep one day behind the bed-room door, leaning his little head upon a chest. Over the chest was a line, and across the line had been thrown a chintz shawl, memorable as having always been worn by our mother when nursing her children. In one hand he had hold of the end of the shawl, which he could just reach, and he was sucking the thumb of the other.
This shawl, which this little child had not previously seen for some time, was associated in his mind with its sweetest, but short-lived comfort. This fact will serve to explain the propriety of taking all the ordinary week day play-things from children on the Sabbath, and substituting in their place others more quiet—for instance, relating Scripture stories, explaining Scripture pictures, and the like.
Such scenes and experience as have been above alluded to, must be more or less familiar to every faithful and praying mother. Children who have been dedicated to God, as was Samuel, and David, and Timothy, in all ages of the world, will be found in after life to be, to the praise, and glory, and riches of God's grace, vouchsafed to parents, in answer to their faith and prayers, and pious teachings.
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THE YOUNGLING OF THE FLOCK.
Welcome! thrice welcome to my heart, sweet harbinger of bliss! How have I looked, till hope grew sick, for a moment bright as this; Thou hast flashed upon my aching sight when fortune's clouds are dark, The sunny spirit of my dreams—the dove unto mine ark.
Oh! no, not even when life was new, and life and hope were young, And o'er the firstling of my flock with raptured gaze I hung, Did I feel the glow that thrills me now, the yearnings fond and deep, That stir my bosom's inmost strings as I watch thy placid sleep!
Though loved and cherished be the flower that springs 'neath summer skies, The bud that blooms 'mid wintry storms more tenderly we prize. One does but make our bliss more bright; the other meets our eye, Like a radiant star, when all besides have vanished from on high.
Sweet blossom of my stormy hour, star of my troubled heaven, To thee that passing sweet perfume, that soothing light is given; And precious art thou to my soul, but dearer far than thou, A messenger of peace and love art sent to cheer me now.
What, tho' my heart be crowded close with inmates dear though few, Creep in, my little smiling babe, there's still a niche for you; And should another claimant rise, and clamor for a place, Who knows but room may yet be found, if it wears as fair a face.
I cannot save thee from the griefs to which our flesh is heir, But I can arm thee with a spell, life's keenest ills to bear. I may not fortune's frowns avert, but I can with thee pray For wealth this world can never give nor ever take away.
But wherefore doubt that He who makes the smallest bird his care, And tempers to the new shorn lamb the blast it ill could bear, Will still his guiding arm extend, his glorious plan pursue, And if he gives thee ills to bear, will give thee courage too.
Dear youngling of my little flock, the loveliest and the last, 'Tis sweet to dream what thou may'st be, when long, long years have past; To think when time hath blanched my hair, and others leave my side, Thou may'st be still my prop and stay, my blessing and my pride.
And when this world has done its worst, when life's fevered fit is o'er, And the griefs that wring my weary heart can never touch it more, How sweet to think thou may'st be near to catch my latest sigh, To bend beside my dying bed and close my glazing eye.
Oh! 'tis for offices like these the last sweet child is given; The mother's joy, the father's pride, the fairest boon of heaven: Their fireside plaything first, then of their failing strength the rock, The rainbow to their wavering years, the youngling of their flock.
ALARIC A. WATTS.
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THE MOTHERS OF THE BIBLE.
THE MOTHER OF SAMSON.
In the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Judges is recorded the short but suggestive story which is our Bible lesson for the present month. Horeb is long since left behind. The evil generation, who forty years tried the patience of Jehovah, have fallen in the wilderness, and their successors are now in possession of the promised land. Moses, and Joshua, and Caleb, have gone to their rest, and Israel, bereft of their counsel, follow wise or evil advices as a wayward fancy may dictate, and receive a corresponding recompense at the hands of their God. The children proved in no respect wiser or more obedient than their fathers. Again and again "they forsook the Lord and served the idols of the Canaanites, and in wrath He gave them up to their enemies." Often in pity he raised up for them deliverers who would lead them for a time in better paths, "but when the judge was dead, they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings nor from their stubborn way," and therefore were they often for long tedious years in bondage to the various nations which God had left in the land "to prove them whether they would walk in his ways." It was during one of these seasons of trouble that the subject of our study is mentioned. She was the wife of Manoah, a citizen of Zorah, of the tribe of Dan. Of her previous history, and the events of her after life, we know nothing. He who sitteth on the circle of the heavens, and beholdeth all things that are done under the sun, and readeth all hearts, had marked her out as the instrument, wherewith he would work to get glory to himself, and however little known to others, He deemed her worthy of this distinguished honor, and to receive a direct communication from himself. Of her character nothing is said, but we gather with unerring certainty that she was a self-denying, obedient child of God, for He would not have chosen one who would not adhere strictly to his every injunction.
It is not necessary that we should detail every incident of those interviews with the angel Jehovah, which the mother of Samson was permitted to enjoy. Take your Bible, friend, and read for yourself in words more befitting than we can use, and as you rise from the perusal, if the true spirit of a Christian reigns in your heart, you will perhaps exclaim, "Oh, that the Lord would come to me also and tell me how I shall order my children that so they may be the subjects of his grace and instruments of his will!" If you meditate deeply while you read, perhaps you will conclude that in His directions to this mother, our Heavenly Father has revealed to us wonderful and important things, which may answer us instead of direct communications from Himself, and which, if heeded and obeyed, will secure to us great peace and satisfaction. Bear in mind, that he who speaks is our Creator—that all the wonders of the human frame are perfectly familiar to Him, and that He knows far more than earthly skill and science have ever been able to ascertain, or even hint at, concerning the relations which Himself ordained. He comes to Manoah's wife with these words: "Now, therefore, beware, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing. For, lo! thou shall conceive and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb." Can you discern in this only an allusion to Jewish customs and ceremonies, long since obsolete, and in no way interesting to us, except as a matter of history? Can you not rather see gleaming out a golden rule which all would be blessed in following? To us, in this history, Jehovah says, "Mother, whatever you wish your child to be, that must you also in all respects be yourself." Samson is to be consecrated to God by the most solemn of vows all the days of his life, and the conditions of that vow his mother is commanded to fulfill from the moment that she is conscious of his existence until he is weaned, a period of four years at least, according to the custom of her time.
These thoughts introduce to us a theme on which volumes have been written and spoken. Men of deep research and profound judgment have been ready to say to all the parents of earth, "Whatever ye are such will also your children prove always, and in every particular to be;" and there are not wanting multitudes of facts to strengthen and confirm the position. In certain aspects of it it is assuredly true, since the principal characteristics of the race remain from age to age the same. Nor is it disproved by what seem at first adverse facts, for although children seem in physical and intellectual constitution often the direct opposite of their parents, yet a close study into the history of families may only prove, that if unlike those parents in general character, they have nevertheless inherited that particular phase which governed the period from which they date their existence. No person bears through life precisely the same dispositions, or is at all times equally under the same influences or governed by the same motives. The gentle and amiable by nature may come into circumstances which shall induce unwonted irritability and ill-humor; the irascible and passionate, surrounded in some favored time, by all that heart can wish, may seem as lovely as though no evil tempers had ever deformed them; and the children who may be the offspring of these episodes in life, may bear indeed a character differing wholly from the usual character of their parents, but altogether corresponding to the brief and unusual state which ruled their hour of beginning life. So is it also in physical constitution. The feeble and sickly have sometimes intervals of health, and the robust see months of languor and disease. Hence, perhaps, the differences which are observable many times in the children of the same family with regard to health and natural vigor.
We cannot enter into the subject. It is wide and extended as human nature itself. It is also, apart from the Gospel of God's grace, a very discouraging subject to the parent who contemplates it with seriousness, and with an earnest desire to ascertain the path of duty. "How useless," we may be tempted to exclaim, "any attempt to gain an end which is so uncertain as the securing any given constitution, either of body or mind, for my children. To-day I am in health, full of cheerfulness and hope; a year hence I may be broken and infirm, a prey to depressing thoughts and melancholy forbodings. My mind is now vigorous and active; who knows how soon the material shall subject the intellectual and clog every nobler faculty? What will it suffice that to-day I feel myself controlled by good motives, and swayed by just principles, and possessed of a well-balanced character, since in some evil hour, influences wholly unexpected may gain the ascendancy, and I be so unlike my present self that pitying friends can only wonder and whisper, How changed! and enemies shall glory in my fall. No. It is vain to strive after certainty in this world of change and vicissitude, since none of us can tell what himself shall be on the morrow. Do what I will, moreover, my child can only inherit a sinful nature." In the midst of gloomy thoughts like these, we turn to the story of Samson's mother, and hear Jehovah directing her to walk before Him in the spirit of consecration, which is to be the life-long spirit of her son. He surely intimates that the child's character begins with, and depends upon, that of the mother. A ray of light and encouragement dawns upon us. True, we are fickle and changeable, and subject to vicissitude; but He, our God, is far above all these shifting scenes, and all the varying circumstances of this mortal life are under his control, and he can turn the hearts of men as He will; His counsel shall stand. True, we are transgressors like our first father, partakers of his fallen nature, and inheritors of the curse; but "where sin abounds, grace does much more abound," and "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." For all the evils under which we groan, the Gospel has a remedy, and we have faith that in spite of all obstacles and difficulties, our Savior will yet present us, as individuals, faultless before the throne. Why may not our faith take a still higher flight? There are given to us exceeding great and precious promises. The Holy Spirit, first of all, shall be given to all who ask. They who hunger and thirst for righteousness shall be filled. He has never said to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain. There are on almost every page of the sacred word, these precious promises. By them you are encouraged daily in your onward struggle, Christian friend. What shall hinder you now from taking them to your heart as a mother with the same faith? If God is able to secure your soul against all evil influences, yes, even against the arch enemy himself, and if he has made the character of your child to depend upon your own in any degree, why may you not plead the promises of His word with double power, when your prayers ascend not merely for yourself, but for another immortal being whom he has so intimately associated with you. You are accustomed daily to seek from Him holy influences; you pray that you may grow in grace and knowledge, and be kept from the evil that is in the world, and from dishonoring your Savior. Can you not offer these same petitions as a mother, and beg all these blessings in behalf of your child, who is to take character from you? Can you not consecrate yourself in a peculiarly solemn manner to the Lord, and viewing the thousand influences which may affect you, pray to be kept from all which would be adverse to the best good of the precious soul to be intrusted to you, and believe by all you know of your Heavenly Father and of his plan of grace, that you will be accepted and your petitions answered? And then can you not act upon that faith? Desiring your child to be a man of prayer, will you not, during the years in which you are acting directly on him, give yourself much to prayer? Hoping that he may not be slothful, but an active and diligent servant of his Lord, will you not give your earnest soul and busy hands to the work which you find to do? Wishing him to be gentle and lovely, will you not strive to clothe yourself with meekness? In short, will you not cultivate every characteristic that is desirable for the devoted Christian, in order that, at least, your child may enter on life with every possible advantage which you can give him? And since a sane mind, and rightly-moving heart, are greatly dependent on a sound body, will you not study to be yourself, by temperance and moderation, and self-denial and activity, in the most perfect health which you can by any effort gain?
Who does not believe that if all Christian mothers would thus believe and act, most blessed results would be secured? The subject appeals to fathers also, and equal responsibility rests upon them.
Some will doubtless be ready to say, "This would require us to live in the spirit of a Nazarite's vow all the time. You have drawn for us a plan of life which is difficult to follow, and demands all our vigilance, constant striving, and unwearied labors." True, friends; but the end to be gained is worth the cost, and you have "God all-sufficient" for your helper.
* * * * *
June 2, 1852.
MY DEAR MADAM,—I send you an extract from an unpublished memoir of the Rev. E.J.P. Messinger, who died in Africa, where he was sent as a missionary of the Protestant Episcopal Church. This biography is not finished; but I think the following passage is well adapted to your Magazine.
Yours, with respect, STEPHEN H. TYNG.
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THE BOY WHO NEVER FORGOT HIS MOTHER.
When James was ten years old his father was suddenly removed by death. His mother was then left to provide for the aged mother of her husband, as well as her own little family, of whom the youngest was an infant of a few weeks old. This was a weary and toilsome task. Neither of her sons were old enough to render her any assistance on the farm, and the slender income arising from it would not warrant the expense of hiring needful laborers. She was obliged to lease it to others, and the rent of her little farm, together with the avails of their own industry, became the support of the widow and fatherless. With this she was still able to send her children to school, and to give them all the advantages which her retired dwelling allowed.
It was during these first years of his mother's lonely widowhood that the tenderness and the loveliness of her son's character were brought out to view. All that he could do to relieve her under her burden became his delight. Though but a child, he was ready to make every sacrifice to promote her comfort and happiness, and to gratify and console his aged grandmother. Attention to his mother's wants from this time entered into all his plans of life. Her interests and welfare were a part of his constant thoughts. It seemed to be his highest earthly delight to increase her happiness and to relieve her trials. He never forgot his mother. He might be called "the boy who always loved his mother." Beautiful trait of character! And God blessed him in his own character and life, according to his promise. After he had gone from his native home to enter upon the business of life, this trait in his character was very constant and very remarkable. At a subsequent period, when his younger brother was about leaving home to learn a trade, James wrote to him, "Mother informs me that you intend learning a trade. I am very glad of it, because I know that it will be advantageous to you. But before you leave home, I hope you will endeavor to leave our dear mother, and grandmother, and the rest of the family, as comfortable as possible. The desire of mother that I should come home and in some measure supply your place, I should not hesitate to comply with, had I not been strongly impressed with the idea that I could render more substantial help by remaining here than by coming home. But I hope before you leave home you will do everything you can for mother; and should you be near home, that you will often visit them, and afford them all the assistance in your power. You know, dear brother, that mother has had many hardships for our sakes. Well do I remember how she used to go out in cold, stormy weather, to assist us about our work, in order to afford us the opportunity of attending school. May we live to enjoy the pleasure of having it in our power to return in some small degree the debt we owe her, by contributing to her comfort in the decline of life."
Then again he wrote to his sister, referring to his brother's absence: "I scarcely know how you will get along without him, as mother wrote me he was going to learn a trade this fall. You must try to do all you can to help along. Think how much trouble and hardship mother has undergone for our sakes. Surely we are old enough to take some of the burden off her hands. I hope you will not neglect these hints. Never suffer mother to undergo any hardship of which you can relieve her. Strive to do all you can to lessen the cares and anxieties which must of necessity come upon her. Be kind, obedient, and cheerful in the performance of every duty. Consider it a pleasure to do anything by which you can render assistance to her."
To another sister he wrote, "I hope you will do all you can to contribute to the assistance and comfort of grandmother and mother. You have it in your power to do much for them. Take care that you never grieve them by folly or misconduct. If my influence will have any effect on your mind, think how much your brother wishes you to behave well, and to render yourself useful and beloved; but remember above all, that God always sees you, and that you never can be guilty of a fault that is not known to him. Strive then to be dutiful and obedient to our only remaining parent, and to be kind and affectionate to all around you."
These are beautiful exhibitions of his filial love. A remembrance of his mother's wants and sorrows was a constantly growing principle of his youthful heart. It was a spirit, too, which never forsook him through his whole subsequent life. Even while on his bed of death in Africa, his heart still yearned over the sorrows and cares of his widowed mother. Then he gave directions for the sale of his little earthly property, that the avails of it might be sent back to America to his mother. Though the sum was small it was enough to contribute much to her comfort for her remaining years. How precious is such a recollection of a boy who never forgot, and never ceased to love his mother. What a beauty does this fact add to the character and conduct of a youth! How valuable is such a tribute to the memory of a youth, "He never forgot his mother!"
* * * * *
THE MISSION MONEY: OR, THE PRIDE OF CHARITY.
"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them."—MATTHEW 6:6.
In an obscure country village lived two little girls of nearly the same age, named Annie Grey and Charlotte Murray; their homes were not very distant from each other, and they were constant companions and playmates.
Charlotte Murray was the eldest of five children, and her parents, though poor, were kept removed from want by constant frugality and industry. Her father labored for the neighboring farmers, and her mother was a thrifty, notable housewife, somewhat addicted to loud talking and scolding, but considered a very good sort of woman.
Charlotte was ten years old, and assisted her mother very much in attending to the children, and performing many light duties about the house. She was healthy, robust and good-natured, but unfortunately had never received any religious instruction, more than an occasional attendance at church with her mother, and thus was entirely ignorant of any higher motives of action than to please her parents, which, though in itself commendable, often led her to commit serious faults. She did not scruple to tell a falsehood to screen herself or brothers from punishment, and would often misrepresent the truth for the sake of obtaining praise. Charlotte was also very fond of dress, and as her parents' means forbade the indulgence of this feeling, she loved to decorate herself with every piece of faded ribbon or soiled lace that came in her way.
Annie Grey was the only child of a poor widow, who supported herself and daughter by spinning and carding wool for the farmers' wives. Mrs. Grey was considered much poorer than any of her neighbors, but her humble cottage was always neat and in perfect order, and the small garden patch which supplied the few vegetables which she needed was never choked with weeds. The honeysuckle was carefully trained about the door, and little Annie delighted in tying up the pinks, and fastening strings for the morning glories that she loved so much.
Mrs. Grey, though poor in this world's goods, had laid up for herself "those treasures in Heaven, which no moth nor rust can corrupt." She had once been in better circumstances, and surrounded by all that makes life happy, but her mercies had been taken from her one by one, until none was left save little Annie; then she learned that "whom God loveth, he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth;" and thus were her afflictions sanctified unto her.
Annie was a delicate little girl, and had never associated much with the village children in their rude sports. Once, when her mother spent a week at Mrs. Murray's, assisting her to spin, she had taken Annie, and thus a friendship commenced between herself and Charlotte.
Annie had been early taught by her mother to abhor deceit and falsehood as hateful to God, and Charlotte often startled her by equivocating, but she had never known her to tell a direct untruth, and she loved her because she was affectionate and kind. Some kind and pious ladies had succeeded in establishing a Sunday-school in the village, and Annie was among the first who attended; she told Charlotte, who prevailed upon her mother to let her go, and they were both regular scholars.
One pleasant Sunday morning, the two little girls went together to school, and after all the children had recited their lessons, the superintendent rose and said that a good missionary was about to leave his home, and go to preach the Gospel to the heathens far over the sea, and that they wanted to raise a subscription and purchase Bibles to send out with him, that he might distribute them among those poor people who had never heard God's holy word.
He told them how the poor little children were taught to lie and steal by their parents, and how they worshiped images of carved wood, and stone, and sometimes killed themselves and drowned the infants, thinking thus to please the senseless things they called their gods. He said that children who could read and write, and go to church, ought to be grateful to God for placing them in a Christian country, and they should pray for the poor little heathen children, and do all they could to provide instruction for them.
"I do not expect you to do much, my dear children," he said, "but all I ask is, to do what you can; some of you have money given you to buy toys or cakes; would you not rather know that it had helped a little heathen child to come to God, than to spend it in anything so soon destroyed and forgotten? And to those who have no money, let me ask, can you not earn it? There are very many ways in which children may be useful, and God will most graciously accept a gift which has cost you labor or self-denial. You remember Jesus himself said that the poor widow's two mites were of more value than all that the rich cast into the treasury, because they gave of their abundance, but she cast in all that she had; will you not, therefore, endeavor to win the Savior's blessing by following the widow's example, and 'Go and do likewise?'"
The children listened very attentively to all the superintendent said, and after school there was much talking among the scholars as to the amount to be given, and how to obtain it. The following Sunday was appointed to receive the collection, and all seemed animated with a generous feeling, and anxious to do what they could.
"I have a bright new penny," cried little Patty Green, who was scarcely six years old. "I didn't like to spend it, because it was so pretty, but I will send it to the little heathen children to buy Bibles with!"
"And I," added James Blair, "have a tenpence that Mr. Jones gave me for holding his horse; I was saving it to buy a knife, but I can wait a while for that; uncle has promised me one next Christmas."
"You may add my sixpence to it, brother," said his sister Lucy. "I did want a pair of woolen gloves, but it is long until winter, and I do not need them now."
"Good!" exclaimed merry, good-natured Simon Bounce. "Ten and six are sixteen, and Patty's bright penny makes seventeen; and let me see, I've got fivepence, and John Blake offered me three cents for my ball, that will make two shillings exactly, quite a good beginning. Why what a treasure there will be if we all put in our savings at this rate!"
Thus talking, the children strolled away in groups, and Charlotte and Annie walked slowly toward their homes. Annie looked thoughtful, and Charlotte spoke first.
"I wish," said she, "that father would give me sixpence; but I know he wont, for he never goes to church, and cares nothing about the heathen, and as for mother, she would call me a simpleton if I was to ask her. I am determined I wont go to school next Sunday if I can't take something, it looks so mean; I will say I am sick and cannot go."
"Oh, Charlotte!" said Annie, "that would be a great deal worse than not giving anything, for it would not only be a falsehood, but you would tempt God to make you sick. I know you do not mean what you say."
"You always take everything so seriously," replied the other, laughing and looking a little ashamed. "But what are you going to do, Annie? Your mother cannot give you anything; but I am sure she would if she had it, she is so kind, and never scolds. I wish mother was so always."
"I have been thinking," returned Annie, "that if I take the two hours mother gives me to play in the garden, and card wool for her, as she has more than she can do this week, perhaps she will give me two or three pennies. I wish I could earn more, but I will do what I can."
"Maybe your mother will let me help her too," said Charlotte, eagerly; "but I have so little time to play that I could not earn much, and I would be ashamed to give so little. I would rather put in more than any one, it would please the teacher and make the girls envy me."
"I am sure," answered Annie, gently, "the teacher would not like us to do anything that would make another envy us, because that is a very wicked and unhappy feeling, and though she might be pleased to see us put in so much, yet it is God whom we are seeking to serve, and he looks at the heart, and knows our feelings. He tells us not to give alms to be seen of men, and you remember, Charlotte, what the superintendent said about the widow's mite, which pleased Jesus, though the gift was so small."
"You speak like a superintendent yourself," cried Charlotte, gaily, "but ask your mother, Annie, and I will come over to-night and hear what she says."
They had now reached Mrs. Grey's house, and bidding each other good-by they parted. Charlotte hurried home to tell her mother about the contributions, and was laughed at, as she expected; however, Mrs. Murray said she would give, if she had it to spare, but charity began at home, and it was not for poor folks to trouble their heads about such matters. Let those who had means, and nothing else to do, attend to it.
When Annie told her mother what had been said in school, Mrs. Grey told her that it had also been given out in church, and a collection was to be taken up on the following Sunday, when the missionary himself would preach for them.
"I shall give what little I can," she added, with a slight sigh. "I wish it was more, but my earnest prayers shall accompany this humble offering to the Lord."
Annie now unfolded her plan to her mother, and asked her consent, which was readily given, and then Annie told her of Charlotte's request. And her mother said that although she did not require Charlotte's help, still she would not refuse her, as she liked to encourage every good inclination. And when Charlotte came in the evening, Annie had the pleasure of telling her that her mother had consented, and would give them a little pile of wool to card every day, for which each should receive a penny.
"And that will be sixpence a-piece, you know," continued Annie, "and we can change it to a silver piece, for fear we might drop a penny by the way."
"Oh, how nice that will be," cried Charlotte. "Do you think many of the girls will put in as much? I hope, at any rate, that none will put in any more."
Then, thanking Annie, she ran home, leaving her friend not a little puzzled to know why Charlotte should wish to make a show.
The difference between the little girls was this; Charlotte only sought to please others from a selfish feeling to obtain praise, while Annie had been taught that God is the searcher of all hearts, and to please him should be our first and only aim.
The next morning Annie was up bright and early, and it seemed to her that the wool was never so free from knots before. After she had said her prayers in the morning, and read a chapter with her mother, the little girl ate her frugal breakfast, and seated herself at her work, and so nimbly did she ply the cards, that her task was accomplished full half an hour before the usual time. She was just beginning her own pile when Charlotte came in; they sat down together, and worked away diligently. Charlotte said that her mother laughed at her, but told her she might do as she pleased, for it was something new for her to prefer work to play, and availing herself of this permission she came.
Annie, who was accustomed to the work, finished her pile first; she then assisted Charlotte, and they each received a penny; there was plenty of time beside for Annie to walk home with her friend.
The two following days passed in the same manner, but on Thursday Charlotte went out with a party of girls, blackberrying, thinking she could make it up on Friday; but it was as much as she could do to earn the penny with Annie's assistance, and Saturday was a busy day, so her mother could not spare her, and Charlotte had but fourpence at the end of the week. Annie had worked steadily, and on Saturday afternoon received the last penny from her mother. She had now six cents, and after supper went with a light heart to get them changed for a sixpenny piece, at the village store.
On the way she met Charlotte. "I could not come to-day," said the latter. "Mother could not spare me, and I cried enough about it. I might have earned another penny, and then I would have changed it for a silver fivepence. Is it not too bad? How much have you got?"
"I have six pennies," answered Annie, "And I am going to change them now; but if you feel so bad about it, I will give you one of them, and then we will each have alike; it makes no difference, you know, who puts it in the box, so that it all goes for the one good purpose."
"How kind you are! How much I love you!" exclaimed Charlotte, gratefully, as she took the money, and kissed her friend. "I will run home and get my fourpence directly."
Annie went on with a contented heart; she had obliged her companion and done no injustice to the good cause, since Charlotte would put the money to the same use. The store-keeper changed the pennies for a bright, new fivepence, and she went on her way rejoicing.
(To be Continued.)
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THE RIDDLE SOLVED.
Some years since, the pastor of a country congregation in a neighboring State was riding through his parish in company with a ministerial friend. As they passed a certain house, the pastor said to his friend, "Here is a riddle which I wish you would solve for me. In yonder house lives one of my elders, a man of sterling piety and great consistency of character, who prays in his closet, in his family, and in public. He has seven or eight children, several of whom are grown up, and yet not one is hopefully converted, or even at all serious. Just beyond him, on the adjoining farm, lives a man of the same age, who married the elder's sister. This man, if a Christian at all, is one of those who will 'be saved so as by fire;' he is very loose and careless in his talk, is in bad repute for honesty, and, although not guilty of any offense which church authorities can take hold of, does many things which grieve the people of God, and are a stumbling-block to others. Yet, of his eleven or twelve children, seven are valued and useful Christians, and there is every reason to anticipate that the rest, as they grow up, will follow in the same course. Now, solve me this difficulty, that the careless professor should be so blessed in his family, while the godly man mourns an entire absence of converting grace, especially as both households are as nearly equal as may be in their social position, their educational facilities, and their means of grace?"
"Let me know all the facts," said the pastor's friend, "before I give my opinion. Have you ever considered the character of the mothers, respectively?"
At once the pastor clasped his hands and said, "I have it; the secret is out. It is strange I never thought of it before. The elder's wife, although, as I trust, a good woman, is far from being an active Christian. She never seems to take any pleasure in religious conversation, but whenever it is introduced, either is silent or speedily diverts it to some worldly subject. She is one of those persons with whom you might live in the same house for weeks and months, and yet never discover that she was a disciple of Christ. The other lady, on the contrary, is as eminent for godliness as her husband is for inconsistency. Her heart is in the cause; she prays with and for her children, and whatever example they have in their father, in her they have a fine model of active, fervent, humble piety, seated in the heart and flowing out into the life."
The friends prosecuted the inquiry no further; they felt that the riddle was solved, and they rode on in silence, each meditating on the wide extent, the far-spreading results of that marvellous agency—a mother's influence.
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PRAYER FOR CHILDREN SOMETIMES UNAVAILING.
Matthew, in his Gospel (chap. 20th), has recorded a highly instructive incident in relation to the disciples, James and John, whose parents were Zebedee and Salome. The latter, it would seem, being of an ambitious turn, was desirous that her two sons should occupy prominent stations in the temporal kingdom, which, according to the popular belief, Jesus Christ was about to establish in the world. That she had inspired them also with these ambitious aspirations, is apparent from the narrative; she even induces them to accompany her in her visit to Christ, and so far they concurred with her designs. On entering his presence she prefers her request, which is, that these sons may sit, the one on his right hand, and the other on his left, in his kingdom. The request was made with due respect, and, doubtless, in all sincerity.
Now, it cannot be denied that there may be a just and reasonable desire on the part of parents, that their children should be advanced to posts of honor and distinction in the world. But that desire should ever be accompanied with a wish that those honors and distinctions should be attained by honest and honorable means, and be employed as instrumentalities of good. If such wish be wanting, the desire is only selfish. And selfishness seems to have characterized the desires of Salome, and probably of James and John. We trust that they all, at length, had more correct views of the character and kingdom of Jesus, and sought and obtained spiritual honor in it, infinitely to be preferred to the honor which cometh from men.
But at the time we speak of, the desires of the mother were narrow and selfish. Yet, it is remarkable with what courtesy Christ treated her and her sons, while at the same time he gave them to understand that they did not know the nature of their request, nor the great matters involved in it.
Passing from the contemplation of the prayer of Salome for the temporal advancement of her sons to the prayers of many parents, at the present day, for the salvation of their children, have we not reason to apprehend the prevalence in them, if not of a similar ambition, of a similar selfishness? I would wish to speak with just caution on a subject of so much interest to parents, and one on which I may easily be misunderstood. And yet a subject in reference to which the most sad and fatal mistakes may be made.
God in his providence has intimately connected parents and children. In a sense, parents are the authors of their being; they are their guardians; they are bound to provide for them, educate them, teach them the knowledge of God, and use all proper means for their present and eternal welfare. In all these respects, they are required to do more for their children than for the children of others, unless the latter are adopted by them, or come under their guardianship. It is doubtless my duty and my privilege to seek more directly and more assiduously the salvation of my children than the salvation of the children of others. This seems to be according to the will of God, and according to the family constitution. And, moreover, it is most reasonable and right.
And if parents have a just apprehension of their responsibilities, they cannot rest satisfied without laboring for the salvation of their offspring, and laboring assiduously and perseveringly for its attainment. And among other things which they will do—they will pray. The Christian parent who does not pray for his children, is not entitled to the name of Christian. There is no such Christian parent, and we doubt if there can be.
But it is obvious that the spirit of Salome, at least in the selfishness of that spirit, may sometimes be even the governing principle of the parent in his prayers for the salvation of his child. Knowing, as he must know, something of the value of his child's soul, and the eternal misery of it if finally lost, how natural to desire his conversion as the only means of escape from a doom so awful! And we admit that the parent is justified, and his parental affinities require him to make all possible efforts to bring that soul to repentance. And he should pray and wrestle with God, as fervently, as importunately, as perseveringly as the object sought is important and desirable.
But, then, here is a point never to be overlooked, and yet is it not often overlooked? viz., that the grand governing motive of the parent in seeking the salvation of his child should be the glory of God—not simply the honor of that soul, as an heir of a rich inheritance—not simply the exemption of his child from misery—nor yet his joy, as a participator in joys and glories which mortal eye has not yet seen, nor human heart yet conceived. The glory of God! the glory of Jesus! that is the all in all—the paramount motive, which is to guide, govern parents, and all others in their desires and labors for the salvation of children and friends!
I do not mean to intimate that parents can ever, or ought ever to take pleasure in the contemplated ruin of their children. God takes no pleasure in the death of him that dieth. But it is not enough for the parent simply to wish his child saved. That desire may be selfish, and only selfish. And that prayer which terminates there, may be as selfish as was the desire of Salome that her sons might occupy the chief places of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The parent may, indeed, wish, and ought to wish, that his child may be saved, and for that he should labor and toil—but in a way which will illustrate the marvels of redeeming mercy, and which shall be in consonance with the established principles of the Gospel.
The parent, then, who prays for the salvation of his child, irrespective of all other considerations, excepting his exemption from misery, prays in vain, for he prays with a heart which is supremely selfish. Where is the parent who could not thus pray? Pray, do I say; such is not prayer. Such pleas, however ardent, however long, however importunate, can never be consistently answered. Prayer, to be acceptable and effectual, must always have the glory of God in view, and be offered in submission to the divine will. It must have reference not merely to what is good, but to a good which shall consist with those eternal principles of justice and mercy, according to which God has decided to conduct the affairs of his spiritual kingdom. We may never wish our children to sit with Christ in his kingdom to the exclusion of others. We may not wish them introduced into that kingdom on other principles, or by other instrumentalities, than those which God has recognized and appointed. The great law which governs in relation to other matters is to govern here. Whatsoever ye do or seek, do and seek, even the salvation of your children, for the glory of God.'
And, now, in conclusion, allow me to inquire whether it be not owing to this selfish feeling that so many parents, who nevertheless abound in prayer for their children, fail in seeing those prayers answered? They fail, not because they do not pray often and earnestly, but because they desire the salvation of their children rather than a humble, holy, self-denying walk with God on earth. They forget that the chief end of man is to glorify God, and that the enjoyment of Him is an effect or result of such a course.
The object of the writer is not to discourage parents in praying for their children, not for a moment, only, dear friend, I show you "a more excellent way." I would urge you to abound in prayer still more than you do. Pray on—"pray always"—pray, and "never faint." But, at the same time, pray so that you may obtain. AMICUS.
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SUPERIOR REVERENCE FOR THE SABBATH IN SCOTLAND, as aptly represented by the anecdote of the American geologist, who was walking out for meditation one Sabbath day in Glasgow. As he passed near the cottage of a peasant, he was attracted by the sight of a peculiar species of stone, and thoughtlessly broke a piece of it. Suddenly a window was raised, and a man's coarse voice reprovingly asked, "Ha! man, what are ye doing?" "Why, only breaking a piece of stone." "An', sure," was the quaint reply, "ye are doing more than breaking the stone; ye are breaking the Lord's day."
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GLEANINGS BY THE WAYSIDE.—No. 1.
LOVE AND FEAR.
"Do with thy might whatsoever thy hand findeth to do."
I rose one morning, before six, to write letters, and hastened to put them into the post-office before breakfast. It was a dark, lowery morning, not very inviting abroad, for an April shower was then falling.
I had the privilege of depositing my letters in a box kept by Mr. D., a thriving merchant, not very remote from my dwelling. As I entered the store, Mr. D. expressed surprise to see me out from home at so early an hour, remarking that he was sure but few ladies were even up at that time, and much less abroad.
I told him in reply, that I had been accustomed from my childhood to strive to "do with my might whatsoever my hand found to do." That persons often expressed surprise that one so far advanced in life could do so much, and endure so much fatigue and labor, and still preserve health. I told Mr. D. that I had myself often reflected upon the fact that I could do more in one day, with ease and comfort to myself, and could endure more hardships, than most others. And when I came to analyze the subject, and go back to first principles, I could readily perceive all this had grown out of an irrepressible desire to please and honor my parents.
My love towards them, coupled with fear, was perfectly unbounded, and became the guiding and governing principles of my whole life. I could not bear, when a very young child, to have either of my parents even raise a finger, accompanied by a look of disapprobation, and whenever they did, I would, as soon as I could, unperceived, seek out some retired place where I could give vent to my sorrowful feelings and troubled conscience.
That I might not often incur their censure, I strove by all possible means to do everything to please them. My parents had a large family of children; there was a great deal to be done, and our mother was always in feeble health. I felt that I could not do enough, each day, in sweeping, dusting, mending, &c., besides the ordinary occupation of each day, that I might gratify my father, for he was very careful and tender of our mother. I was not conscious of a disposition to outvie my brothers and sisters, but when anything of consequence was to be done I would exert myself to the utmost in my efforts to accomplish the largest share. When we went into the garden or the fields to gather fruits or vegetables, I was constantly influenced to be diligent, and to make haste and gather all I could, so that on our return home I might receive the plaudit, "Well done, good and faithful child." So it was in knitting and sewing. That I might be able to accomplish more and more each day, I would often induce one or more of my sisters to strive with me, to see which could do the most in a given period.
So profitable did I find this excitement, that I often carried the practice into my hours of study, as when my busy fingers plied the needle. And often when I had no one to strive with me, I would strive with myself, by watching the clock,—that is, I would see if I could not knit or sew this hour more than I did the previous hour, if I could not commit to memory more verses, or texts, or lessons, than I had the last hour.
In this way I not only cultivated habits of vigorous efforts, but I acquired that cheerful, happy disposition which useful occupation is always sure to impart. In this way, too, I obtained that kind of enthusiasm when anything of importance was to be done, that a boy has when he is indulged in going out on a fishing or hunting excursion. A boy thus situated, needs no morning summons. On the contrary, he is usually on his way to the field of action before it is quite light; and it concerns him but little whether he eats or fasts till his toils are at an end.
Children, who thus early acquire habits of industry, and a love of occupation, instead of living to eat in after life, will eat to live.
Oh, how do early right habits and principles help to form the character, and mould the affections, and shape the destiny in all the future plans and modes of living. How do they lead their possessor to strive after high attainments, not only in this life, but thus lay the foundation for activity in the pursuit of high and holy efforts throughout the endless ages of eternity.
It will be perceived that the ruling motives of my conduct, in my early childhood, towards my parents, were those of love and fear. Indeed these are the two great principles that actuate the holy inhabitants of heaven towards their Maker, whether they be saints or angels.
It was not the fear of the rod that led me to obey my best of parents. It was not all the gifts or personal gratifications that could be offered to a child that won my love.
I saw in both of my parents heavenly dispositions, heavenly tendencies, drawing them, day by day, towards the great source of all perfection and blessedness. I saw the noble and sublime principles of the Gospel acted out in the nursery as sedulously as in the sanctuary, in fact far more when at home than when abroad, for here there were more ample opportunities afforded for their full development than perhaps anywhere else. They loved each other with a pure heart, fervently, and they sought not only the temporal good of their children, but their eternal felicity and happiness. There was no constraint in their daily and hourly watchings and teachings, but it was of a ready mind.
They aspired, themselves, after a perfect conformity to the image of the blessed Savior—whose name is love—and they taught their children by precept, and by their own lovely examples, to walk in his footsteps, who said, "Be ye holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy."
What powerful motives then have all parents so to demean themselves towards each other, and towards their children, as to deserve and to secure their filial regard! Parents and children, thus influenced, will forever respond to the following beautiful sentiment:
"Happy the heart where graces reign, Where love inspires the breast; Love is the brightest of the train, And strengthens all the rest."
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GOD'S BIBLE, A BOOK FOR ALL.
At a meeting of the thirty-sixth anniversary of the American Bible Society, May 13, 1852, many thoughts were suggested worthy the special attention of all Christian mothers. A few are here registered, in the hope that they may continue to call forth the prayers and efforts of all Christian parents, and lead them to feel that whatever else they neglect in the daily instructions of their children, they cannot safely overlook their sacred obligations to see to it that the minds and hearts of their children be early imbued with a love and reverence for this Book of books.
As was justly remarked, the Bible is the teacher of true philosophy, in fact the only fountain of truth, and suggests the best and only plan adequate to the conversion of the world.
Let the prayers, then, of all Christian mothers be daily concentrated in asking God's blessing upon this noble institution, keeping in mind the Savior's last prayer for his beloved disciples, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."
We particularly invite attention to a resolution offered on that occasion by Rev. Theo. L. Cuyler of Trenton, N.J.:
"Resolved, That the adaptedness of the Bible to all conditions of society, and all grades of intellect, as shown by past history, brings us evidence of its divine origin, and inspires us with hope of its future success in enlightening and purifying the world."
Mr. C. remarked—"A wide field swells out before me in this resolution, for it is nothing less than the universality of God's Word in its complete adaptedness to the possible conditions of humanity. The truth which I hold up for you all to gaze upon is, that 'God's Bible is the book for all.' Like the air which visits alike the palace and the cottage; like the water which meanders its way, or gushes from deep fountains for the use of all men; so this book is adapted to the wants of all immortal men. It is adapted to every grade of mind and heart, rising higher than human intellect ever reached, and descending lower than human degradation ever sank.
"Go to that closet in the neighborhood of Edinburgh, and see one of the mightiest intellects the world has ever produced, upon whose transcendent eloquence a Brougham, a Canning, and the greatest names of the age, have hung entranced, bending over the pages of the Book of Life. He reads, and writes his thoughts as he reads, until his writings become volumes, and the world is blessed with his meditations on the whole Bible. So thoroughly does his spirit become imbued with the thoughts of this book, that Chalmers was said to have held the whole Bible in solution.
"Upon Alpine peaks it spreads a moral verdure which makes their rugged valleys smile, and adorns them with flowers of heavenly origin. Upon the Virginia plantation, it made Honest John, the happy negro. It was adapted to all climates and all conditions of life. It was the only book which comforts in the last hour.
"This was vividly illustrated by the closing scene in the life of Sir Walter Scott. The window of his chamber was open, through which entered the breeze, bearing upon its wings the music of the silvery Tweed, which had so often lulled his mighty spirit. His son-in-law was present, to whom he said, 'Lockhart, read to me.' Lockhart replied, 'What shall I read?' The dying bard turned to him his pale countenance and said, 'Lockhart, there is but one book!'
"What a tribute from the world's mightiest master of enchantment, who had himself penned so many works which were the admiration of his fellows, were those brief words uttered, when the spirit hung between two worlds, 'There is but one book.' Would you learn true sublimity? Throw away Virgil, the Greek and Roman classics, and even Milton and Shakspeare, and go to the Bible.
"Amid all turbulence, agitation and danger, there is no other foundation upon which we can rest the welfare and peace of society. This is the only resort of every scheme of human elevation. This contains the primal lessons of all duty. Let reformers recollect this, and let us all gather around and protect this pillar of truth. Diffuse this 'blessed book,' as one of England's poets, when pressing it to his lips in his dying hour, called it. Wheel up this sun of light to the mid-heavens, and cause its rays to gleam in every land."
Rev. Mr. Goodell, missionary to Constantinople, remarked, that during thirty years residence in Mahomedan countries, he had learned something of the importance of that book. The nations of the East are all wrong in their conceptions of God. He had often stood upon the goodly mountain, Lebanon, and upon the heights around Constantinople, and raised his thoughts to God, asking, How long shall this darkness prevail? Without this book we could have effected little in our missionary work; but by it God hath done great things, whereof we are glad. The Bible was once found only in dead languages; now it is translated into the language of almost every people with whom we come in contact. Every friend of the Bible will rejoice to know that it is becoming the great book of the East. Before its translation into the Greco-Armenian, it was a mere outside book, kept and admired for its handsome binding, and from a superstitious reverence. Now it is an inside book; it has taken hold of the heart of the Armenian nation. Once it was looked at; now it is read. It has come to assume a great importance in the eyes of that people. They have a great anxiety to read. More than one hundred aged women are now engaged in learning to read, that they may read the New Testament for themselves.
* * * * *
Let religion create the atmosphere around a woman's spirit and breathe its life into her heart; refine her affections, sanctify her intellect, elevate her aims and hallow her physical beauty, and she is, indeed, to our race, of all the gifts of time, the last and best, the crown of our glory, the perfection of our life.
* * * * *
"And though to his own hurt he swears, Still he performs his word."
I was yet a boy, when one day a gentleman came into the lot where my father was superintending the in-gathering of his hay crop, and addressing himself to a mower in my father's employment, inquired whether he would assist him the following day. He replied, "Yes." "How is this," said my father; "are you not engaged to mow for me?" "O yes," said the man. "Why, then," continued my father, "do you promise to mow for Gen. K——?" "Why," said the man, "I wish to oblige him; I love to oblige everybody." "And so," said my father, "you are willing to incur the guilt of falsehood, for you cannot perform your promise to him and myself, and in the end you must disappoint one of us; and, maybe, seriously injure our interests and your reputation."
Nothing, surely, is more common, it is believed, than this heedless manner of making promises which cannot be fulfilled. The modes in which such promises are made are multitudinous, but it is not within the compass of this article to specify them. That they are utterly wrong, and indicate, on the part of those who make them, a light regard for truth, is obvious. Besides, they often lay the foundation for grievous disappointments, they thwart important plans, derange business calculations, give birth to vexatious feelings, cause distrust between man and man, and sap the foundations of morality and religion. Promises should always be made with due caution and due reservation: "If the Lord will," "if life is spared," "if unforeseen circumstances do not interpose to prevent." It is always easy to state some conditions, or make some such reservations. Or, rather, it would be easy, were it not that one is often urged beyond all propriety, to make the promise, as if the making of it, of course insured its fulfillment, although a thousand circumstances may interfere to prevent it.
This is a subject of vast importance to the community. There are evils also connected with it of alarming magnitude, and which all needful efforts should be made to remove. Especially should this subject attract the attention of parents. The mischief often begins with them and around their own hearths. How common it is for parents to make promises to their children, while the latter are yet tottering from chair to chair, which are never designed to be fulfilled. And, at length, the deception is discovered by the little prattlers, and often much earlier than parents imagine. Often, too, is the parent reminded of his promise and of its non-fulfillment. And, sometimes, this is done days and weeks after the promise has been made and neglected. The consequence is, that the child comes to feel that his parent has little or no regard to truth himself, and that truth is a matter of minor importance. So that child grows up. So he goes forth into society, and enters upon business. Will he be likely to forget the lessons thus early taught him, and the example thus early set him?
I am able to illustrate this subject by an incident which occurred in my own experience within the last two months. I must tell the story in my own simple way, and as it is entirely truthful, I hope salutary impressions may be made in every quarter where they are needed, and where this article shall be read.
Having occasion for the services of a mechanic in relation to a certain piece of work, I called upon one in my neighborhood, then in the employment of a gentleman, and was informed, on stating my object, that as he should be through with his present engagement on the evening of a certain day, he would commence my work on the following morning. The specified time arrived, but the man did not appear. I waited two or three days, in hourly expectation of his appearance, but was doomed to disappointment. At length, I again called upon him and found him still in the employment of the gentleman aforenamed. On inquiring the reason of his delay, I was informed that on completing his former engagement the gentleman had concluded to have more done than he originally intended, and insisted upon the continuance of the mechanic in his service until his work was entirely finished.
I said to him, "But did you not agree with me for a specified day?"
"Did not your engagement with Mr. —— terminate on the evening previous to that day?"
"Were you under obligation to that gentleman beyond that time?"
"Did not your continuance with him involve a violation of your promise to me?"
"Was not this wrong? and how are you able to justify your conduct?"
"Sir," said he, "you do not understand the matter. I am to blame, but my employer is still more to blame. Look at it. I am a mechanic and a poor man. I am dependent on my labor for the support of myself and family. This gentleman is rich, and gives me a great deal of employment; I do not like to disoblige him, and, sir, when I told him, on the termination of my engagement to him, that I had promised to enter upon a piece of work for you, he would not release me. He claimed that I was in good faith bound to work for him till his various jobs were done."
"And did you think so, my friend?"
"No," he replied, "I did not; but he told me that if I did not stay he would give me no further employment."
"And so," said I, "you violated your conscience, wronged your own soul, disappointed me, and all for the sake of obliging a man who was willing that you should suffer in point of conscience and reputation, if his selfish purposes might be answered."
"I am sensible," said he, "that I did wrong, but what course shall we pursue, who are dependent upon our daily labor, for our support?"
"I admit," said I, "that you and others similarly situated, are under a grievous temptation. But honesty, in the long run, is the best policy. Acting upon the same principles with the gentleman who has detained you, I might hereafter refuse to employ you. And others might refuse, whose work you are probably engaged to perform, but are postponing to gratify him. The consequence of all this is, that your promises will soon pass for nothing. You will be considered as a man not of your word, and when once your good name is lost, you will become poorer than you now are, and remain without employment and without friends."
No one, it is believed, can read the foregoing incident without being impressed with the great impropriety chargeable upon the gentleman referred to. The temptation he spread before the poor mechanic was utterly wrong and unbecoming. It was nothing short of oppression. It was bringing his wealth to bear upon a point with which it had no legitimate connection. It was placing self before right; it was a reckless sacrifice of the interests of others for his own gratification.
That such cases are common, is well known; but their frequency is only a proof of the slight regard in which the sacredness of promises is held, and to the violation of which employers frequently contribute by the temptations which they spread, and the coercion which they practice. We do not justify for a single moment the mechanics and laborers who violate their pledges. We insist upon it that it is their solemn duty to encounter any and every temporal evil rather than sacrifice truth and conscience; but it is believed they would seldom be guilty of this violation were they not pressed beyond measure by employers.
We must for a moment again advert to parents. You see, friends, what an evil exists throughout the community. It is everywhere, and is helping to work the ruin of immortal souls. It often begins, it is believed, in the family. Parents are guilty, in the first place, and they early inoculate their children with the evil. And the infection, once taken, is likely to spread and to pervade the whole moral system. It enters into other relations of life. It reaches to other departments of duty, and tends to destroy our sense of obligation to God. It weakens our regard for promises made to the Author of our being. In short, this disregard for the fulfillment of sacred promises helps to sap the foundations of moral virtue, and to prepare the soul for a world where falsehood reigns supreme, and where there is no confidence between man and man.
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The Rev. Wm. Jay has sweetly said of the trials of the people of God: "Have they days of affliction? God knows them; knows their source, their pressure, how long they have continued, the support they require, and the proper time to remove them. Have they days of danger? He knows them, and will be a refuge and defense in them. Have they days of duty? He knows them, and will furnish the strength and the help they require. Have they days of inaction when they are laid aside from their work, by accident or disease? He knows them, and says to his servants under every privation, 'It is well that it was in thy heart.' Have they days of privation when they are denied the ordinances of religion, after seeing his power and glory in the temple, and going with the voice of gladness to keep holy day? He knows them, and will follow his people when they cannot follow him, and be a little sanctuary to them in their losses. Have they days of declension and of age in which their strength is fled, and their senses fail, and so many of their connection have gone down to the dust, evil days, wherein they have no pleasure? He knows them, and says, 'I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth. Even down to old age I am He, and to hoary hairs will I bear and carry you.'"
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THE YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION.
Our friend, Mrs. Sigourney, has, at our request, kindly sent us the subjoined hymn and remarks: "The Young Men's Christian Association I consider one of the very best designs of this age of philanthropy. I send you a hymn, elicited by the Boston branch of this same Society, a circumstance which will not, I hope, diminish its adaptation to your pages."
We cannot omit to ask mothers and daughters to give this Association their countenance and prayers. We trust it will be the means of accomplishing great good.
HYMN FOR THE "YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION."
GOD of our children! hear our prayer, When from their homes they part, Those idols of our fondest care, Those jewels of the heart.
We miss their smile in hall and bower; We miss their voice of cheer; We speak their names at midnight hour When none but Thou dost hear.
God of their spirits! be their stay, When from their parents' side, Their boat is launched to find its way O'er life's tempestuous tide.
Tho' toss'd 'mid breakers wild and strong, Its veering helm should stray Where syrens wake the mermaid song, Guide thou their course alway.
Oh, God of goodness, bless the band Who, moved by Christian love, Take the young stranger's friendless hand And lead his thoughts above.
May their own souls the sunbeam feel, They thus have freely given, And be the plaudit of their zeal The sweet "well-done" of heaven.
L. H. S.
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THE MOTHERS OF THE BIBLE.
NAOMI AND RUTH.
It would be only presumption in us to attempt giving in any other than the beautifully simple words of Scripture the story of Ruth and her mother-in-law. The narration is inimitable, and needs nothing to make it stand out like a picture before the mind. Suffice it then that we now attend only to the lessons which may be gathered from it, and endeavor to profit by them through all our coming lives. Nor let any think the lessons afforded by these four short chapters few or easily acted upon, though they may be soon comprehended. They will amply reward earnest study and persevering practice.
The first thing which wins our admiration is Ruth's faith. She had been educated in the degrading worship of Chemosh, the supreme deity of Moab. Probably no conception of the one living God had been formed in her mind until her acquaintance with the Jewish youth, the son of Elimelech and Naomi. How long she had the happiness of a wife we are not informed. We know it was only a few years. But during that period she had learned to put such confidence in Jehovah, that she was willing to forsake country and friends, even the home of her childhood and beloved parents, and go forth with her mother-in-law to strange scenes, and willing to brave penury and vicissitude that she might be numbered among His people. Firmly she adhered to her resolution. The entreaties of Naomi—the thought of her mother—the prospects which might await her in her own land—even the retreating form of Orpah—nothing had power to prevail over her desire to see Canaan and unite in the worship of her husband's God. "The Lord recompense thy work," said Boaz to her, "and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust." He is not unfaithful, and that reward was made sure. "Of the life that now is," the promise speaks, and it was fulfilled to her. Of an undying honorable name it says nothing, but that is also awarded her. "Upon a monument which has already outlasted thrones and empires, and which shall endure until there be a new heaven and a new earth—upon the front page of the New Testament is inscribed the name of RUTH. Of her came David—of her came a long line of illustrious and good men—of her came Christ."
Why will we not learn—why will we not daily and constantly act upon the truth that implicit faith is pleasing to God? "None of them that trust in Him shall be desolate."
There is a fund of instruction also in the few glimpses which we gain of the intercourse of Naomi and Ruth as they journey on and after their arrival in Canaan. How does the law of love dictate and pervade every word and action! Naomi had once been an honored wife and mother in Judah, and far above the reach of want. But in "the days when the judges ruled," those days during which "every man did what was right in his own eyes," her husband had deserted his people; and now on her return she was probably penniless, her inheritance sold until the year of jubilee, and she in her old age, unable by her own efforts to gain a subsistence. The poor in Israel were not forlorn, but it required genuine humility on Ruth's part, and a sincere love for her mother-in-law, to induce her to avail herself of the means provided. She hesitated not. It was "in the beginning of the barley harvest" that they came to Bethlehem, and as soon as they were settled, apparently in a small and humble tenement, she went forth to glean in some field after the reapers, not knowing how it would fare with her, but evidently feeling that all depended on her labors. The meeting of the mother and daughter at the close of that important day is touching indeed. The joy with which the aged Naomi greets her only solace, and the kind and motherly care with which she brings the remains of her own scanty meal, which she had laid aside, her eager questions, and Ruth's cheerful replies as she lays down her burden and relates the pleasant events of the day—what gratitude to God—what dawning hopes—what a delightful spirit of love appear through all! And as days pass, how tenderly does Naomi watch over the interests of her child, and how remarkable is the deference to her wishes which ever animates Ruth. Even in the matter of her marriage,—a subject on which young people generally feel competent to judge for themselves,—she is governed entirely by her mother's directions. "All that thou sayest unto me I will do." Said a young lady in our hearing, not long since, "When I am married I shall desire that my husband may have no father or mother." This is not an unusual wish, nor is it uttered in all cases lightly and without reason. We know of a mother who would never consent that her only son should bring his wife to dwell under her roof, although she was entirely satisfied with his choice, and was constantly doing all in her power to promote their happiness. What were her reasons? She was a conscientious Christian and fond mother, but she would not risk their mutual happiness. She felt herself unable to bear the test, and she was unwilling to subject her children to it. Often do we hear expressions of pity bestowed on the young wife who is so "unfortunate" as to be compelled to live with her mother-in-law, and many are the sighs and nods and winks of gossip over the trials which some of their number endure from their sons' wives. Why is all this? The supreme selfishness of our human nature must answer. Having a common love for one object, the mother for her son, the wife for her husband, they should be bound by strong ties, and their mutual interests should produce mutual kindness and sympathy, and this would always be the case if each were governed by the spirit of the Gospel. But alas! love of self rather than the pure love inculcated by Jesus Christ most often rules. Brought together from different paths, unlike, it may be, in natural temperament, perhaps differing in opinion, the mother wishing to retain her wonted control over her son, the wife feeling hers the superior claim, there springs up a contest which is the fruitful source of unhappiness, and which mars many an otherwise fine character. Before us in memory's glass as we write, sits one of a most fair and beautiful countenance, but over which hang dark clouds of care, and from the eyes drop slowly bitter tears. She is what all around her would call a happy wife and mother. Fortune smiles upon her, and the blessing of God abides by the hearth-stone. Her husband is a professing Christian, as is also his yet youthful-looking mother and the wife herself. Beautiful children gambol around her, and look wonderingly in her face as they see those tears. What is the secret of her unhappiness? She deems hers a very hard lot, and yet if we rightly judge, could her sorrow be resolved to its elements, it would be found that the turmoil of her spirit is occasioned solely by the fact that she finds it hard to maintain her fancied rights, her desired superiority over her husband and servants, because of the presence of her calm, firm, dignified mother-in-law, whose very lips seem chiseled to indicate that they speak only to be obeyed. What would be the result if the tender, considerate love of Naomi and the yielding spirit of Ruth were introduced to the bosom of each?
We cannot leave this record of Holy Writ without commenting also on the remarkable state of society which existed in Bethlehem in those far distant days. When Naomi returned after an absence of ten years—an absence which to many might have seemed very culpable—with what enthusiastic greetings was she received. "The whole city was moved." It made no difference that she "went out full but had returned empty;" nor did they stop to consider that "the Lord had testified against her." The truest sympathy was manifested for her and for the stranger who had loved her and clung to her. In her sorrow they clustered around to comfort her, and when the bright reverse gave her again an honored name and "a restorer of her life" in her young grandson, they were eager to testify their joy. The apostolic injunction, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep," seems to have been strictly obeyed in Bethlehem. The distinctions of society, although as marked apparently as in our own time, seem not to have caused either unhappiness nor the slightest approach to unkind or unchristian feeling. Witness the greeting between Boaz and the reapers on his harvest field. "And behold Boaz came from Bethlehem and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee." Boaz was "a mighty man of wealth;" he had his hired workmen around him, and in the same field was found the poor "Moabitish damsel," gleaning here and there the scattered ears, her only dependence. Yet we find them all sitting together in the hut which was erected for shelter, and eating together the parched grain which was provided for the noon's refreshment, while Boaz enters into a conversation with Ruth which indicates his truly noble and generous character, and speaks words which are like balm to the sorrowing spirit. "Thou hast comforted me and spoken to the heart of thy handmaid," she said as she rose to leave the tent and felt herself no longer a stranger, since one so excellent and so exalted in station appreciated and sympathized with her. We see little in these Gospel days and in this favored land which will compare with the genuine kindliness which breathes in every word and act recorded in the book of Ruth.
But the most surprising revelation is made in the account which follows the scene in the tent. What exalted principle—what respect for woman—what noble virtue must have characterized those among whom a mother could send her daughter at night to perform the part assigned to Ruth, apparently without a fear of evil, and receive her again, not only unharmed, but understood, honored, and wedded by the man to whom she was sent, and that notwithstanding her foreign birth and dependent situation, and fettered with the condition that her first-born son must bear the name and be considered the child of a dead man!
We have friends who will fasten their faith on the New Testament only, and can see nothing in the Old akin to it in precept or spirit. We commend to them the Book of Ruth.
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THE MISSION MONEY: OR, THE PRIDE OF CHARITY.
"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them."—MATTHEW 6:6.
(Concluded from page 211.)
In the mean time Charlotte ran home for her pennies, and on her return met an acquaintance who did not belong to the Sunday-school.
"Where are you going so fast, Charlotte?" said she; "stop, I want to show you what a lovely blue ribbon I have just bought at Drake's, only four cents a yard, and half a yard makes a neck ribbon; isn't it sweet? just look;" and she displayed a bright blue ribbon to the admiring gaze of Charlotte.
"It is very pretty," said Charlotte longingly, "and I wish I could afford to buy one like it, but I've got no money."
"What is that in your hand?" asked the other, as she espied the pennies in Charlotte's hand.
"That is mission money," she replied; "I am going to give it to the missionary to buy Bibles for the heathen."
"Buy fiddlesticks!" said the other, with a loud laugh. "Why, you are a little simpleton to send your money the dear knows where, when you might buy a whole yard of this beautiful ribbon and have a penny left!"
Charlotte looked wishfully at the ribbon, and sighed as she answered, "But I earned this money on purpose to give."
"More goose you to work for money to give away; but if you are so very generous, buy half a yard, and then you will have three cents left to give, that is enough I am sure; but do as you like, I must go. They have got some splendid pink, that would become you exceedingly. Good bye;" and so saying she left her.
Charlotte walked thoughtfully on; her love of dress and finery was a ruling passion, and had been aroused at a most unfortunate moment; she had never possessed a piece of new ribbon, and she longed to see how it would look with her white cape. Thus thinking she arrived at Mr. Drake's store, and the first thing she saw temptingly displayed in a glass case upon the counter was the identical ribbon she coveted. There were customers in the store, and Charlotte had to wait her turn; during those few moments various thoughts passed through her mind.
"If I buy the ribbon what will Annie say?" suggested conscience. "Why need you care for Annie?" whispered temptation, "the ribbon will look pretty and becoming; you earned the money, and beside, Annie need not know anything about it; tell her you had not time to change the money, and throw the pennies quickly in the box; there will be more there, and no one will know how much you put in."